Shikara is a tale of loss. It is not a story of hate, writes Vidhu Vinod Chopra
I will never peddle hate for profit. I will not make a film that demonises a community, and sows more animosityUpdated: Feb 12, 2020 19:12 IST
On Friday, I walked into a packed theatre for one of the first screenings of my latest film, Shikara. Three hundred people, most of them Kashmiri Pandits, stood up and applauded. But one lady at the back screamed that the film wasn’t representative of her pain. She wanted more. I was accused of commercialising the tragedy of a community which was exiled 30 years ago.
I have spent many days thinking about what she said. And I realise that what she wanted was more hate. She wanted a film that demonised Muslims, and that sowed even more animosity and bloodshed. In fact, one of her issues with the film was that Muslim actors were playing Pandit characters.
After a week of shrill accusations, controversy and introspection about what I could have done differently, I have come to the conclusion that I am not that storyteller. I will never peddle hate for profit.
I started working on Shikara 11 years ago in 2008. This film was made as a tribute to my mother. She came to Mumbai from Srinagar for a week to attend the premiere of Parinda and could never return. She briefly went with me to Kashmir during the shoot of Mission Kashmir in 1999. She visited her home which had been looted by the militants. Everything was gone. Despite seeing her house ransacked, she kept saying that it will be fine one day. She hugged the neighbours and left with the hope, that some day, she can return. She died in exile in 2007.
I am my mother’s son, and when I was making this film, the predominant thought in my mind was that my film should not incite violence. My ambition was to represent the reality fully, but without provoking the viewer to feel vengeful.
So in the January 19, 1990 sequence, the militants who come to burn the Pandit homes are in the shadows. I purposely did this because I believe that violence is faceless.
I hoped to begin a conversation with Shikara and I am happy to say that this has happened. I have received countless messages and emails from Kashmiri Pandits thanking me for bringing their story to the world. I feel fulfilled.
As for the haters, I have only thing to say – as Munna put it so beautifully in Lage Raho Munnabhai – Get Well Soon!